Sudden death of White Oak?

B737

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Two sick tree threads on first page, I didnt want to take over Coach's thread...

This white oak is prob 36" in diameter, 60' tall. It is very close the house, 15', but I never messed with it during annual arborist visits because it has a substantial lean away, and was always very healthy.

This tree was perfectly healthy just 4 weeks ago. Then out of the blue, it has lost most of its leaves top to bottom, the ones that are left are dead, the green lower ones are dying. I've never seen a oak this size die in 4 weeks, this tree is probably 100 years old??

It is too close and too big for me to handle so i'll be leaving it up to the professionals. I really wanted to conserve money right now but something is telling me this must be moved to the short list and addressed immediately. Have you guys ever seen this happen before? I am in NJ zone 7a



 

Tornado

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Would love a hi-res image so could blow it up and see more detail. Here in my area we have tons of tall pine trees. It isn't uncommon to see a pine tree up and die like this, but I dont know that Ive ever seen a hardwood die in this fashion at the same speed. I would just say that when it happens in pine trees its often the result of beetles. There are some diseases as well that pine trees can get that will cause a swift death. You can usually spot signs of what caused the demise by studying the exterior of the tree all the way up. Again, all of this is regarding pine trees which are an entirely different species. However, there are really only 3 real causes of deaths of trees this size - A bug infestation like termites or beetles (you would be able to spot their damage under close examination) a disease that was transmitted (many diseases often leave visible signs somewhere along the tree) or lightning (lightning of course always leaves a scar on trees as well that is pretty obvious). I guess there is a 4th cause of sudden death that would leave no visible trace - herbicides. Have you used any herbicides around or near this tree recently? Imazapyr for example can be a pretty nasty one if you spray it on the ground around trees, it will kill everything in the area as it gets into the soil and contacts the root systems, and it is a swift killer.

Also just a suggestion - you could rent a man lift and likely down this tree yourself for cheaper than paying a crew. I have had to cut dead pine trees that were over 60' tall and right near my house like this before. I just rent a straight boom lift and get them down - since you have it you can then go around and trim all sorts of stuff that maybe you have wanted to trim or take down. It costs me just $400 here to rent the 60' straight boom for a weekend with an 8 hour allowance on the machine. You can do some serious work with 8 hours on these things and a chainsaw.
 

B737

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I'll see if I can get a closer up picture after all this rain passes, maybe I can chip away some bark and see if there are bugs. I did not think of lighting!

No herbicides used on the property. Just pesticide (TalStar P) on fence perimeter (near this tree)

If it was less than 18" i might take my chances with a man lift, but there is a neighbors fence 60' away, this one is out of my league to pull down given its size. This tree was never on my radar to pull down, such a shame.
 

sparky45

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Any saw mills in the area that would take the tree down for the lumber? If not, that's going to be a very expensive problem to deal with.
 

RCW

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White Oaks are pretty hardy.
My first thought also.

There's some species I have concern about with advanced age and size (Black Cherry, Aspen/poplars, Red Pine). Oaks in general aren't a concern this way, but I don't have much experience with WO.
 

B737

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Any saw mills in the area that would take the tree down for the lumber? If not, that's going to be a very expensive problem to deal with.
So densely populated in NJ, we're not that fortunate regarding mills. Daily rates are in the neighborhood of $2-$3000, and that tree is 3/4 of a day unfortunately. They will clean up some other stuff while they are here for the money but its unfortunate that it was so sudden, and just happened to occur right now, my luck. I wonder if lighting was culpret, although I think I'd see a stripe down the tree? Maybe when I pull some bark off i'll see more.
 

Tughill Tom

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So densely populated in NJ, we're not that fortunate regarding mills. Daily rates are in the neighborhood of $2-$3000, and that tree is 3/4 of a day unfortunately. They will clean up some other stuff while they are here for the money but its unfortunate that it was so sudden, and just happened to occur right now, my luck. I wonder if lighting was culpret, although I think I'd see a stripe down the tree? Maybe when I pull some bark off i'll see more.
Where are you in NJ? I'm from there and know a couple of Good Tree Guys.
 

Tornado

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If it was less than 18" i might take my chances with a man lift, but there is a neighbors fence 60' away, this one is out of my league to pull down given its size. This tree was never on my radar to pull down, such a shame.
I know the feeling for sure B737. I have a ton of pine trees on my property, and many of them near the house. Pine trees like the ones here are literally like 60-80' light poles. The branches dont even start typically until about 40' up the tree and they are little branches. If a pine tree falls on a house its like a guillotine coming down. Ive seen wind storms put them down on top of mobile homes and seen the pine tree go all the way to the dirt, slicing the whole mobile home in two. So, about 5 months ago when one large pine just 20 feet form the house up and died, I had to get the man lift rented and get it down pretty fast. I went to the very top with the lift and just cut it in about 3-4 foot sections and slowly worked my way down. When I was done I had a massive pile of these heavy logs all at the base, all just oozing pine tar. I lit them up and it took a solid week to burn them all down. I dont have as much experience with hard woods dieing or how they behave. I know when pine trees die, typically they will fall down in sections, starting at the top. The crown will break out in a storm or something, then a few weeks later Ill find another chunk fallen, then another, and it will work its way down naturally. If pines die out away form my house I just let them fall down gradually like this on their own. The woodpeckers love a dead pine tree. They will be all over it.. Once it does all come down the logs will look alike you shot them up with buck shot form all the woodpecker damage (another good sign of bug infestation as well)

I do have some cherry and water oaks on my property that have died, and in most all of those cases it was due to termite infestation form subterranean termites, which are a big problem in florida. Typically though the trees die a slow death, and show lots of visible damage along the way as the termites slowly destroy the tree. They leave behind very noticeable damage. You would be able to walk up to the tree and just peel bark back and see all the damage from the termites tunneling through the wood, and you may spot little mounds of fine dust, much like saw dust, at the base of the tree. Other termite species though like dry wood termites do not come from the ground though - they fly in via a swarm event that occurs at rare occasions. Dry wood termites though have much much smaller colonies than subterranean colonies which can be hundreds of thousands of members in size. If its beetles you can look for entry points along the bark of the tree. These points are easy to spot on a pine tree because the tree will push out its sticky sap at the location, and overtime a little hump will form at the entry point as the tree tries to re-seal the hole.

Let us know if you find out definitively what it is. In your state do you have local county foresters like we do here in florida? If you do, call up your county forester and pick his/her brain. If they are like our local forester here in my county he will want to come take a look and can give you lots of information and perhaps pinpoint the cause by inspecting it.

EDIT: also try to get a few leaves off the tree to study. if it is disease you can sometimes identify certain diseases by inspecting the leaf veins for various signs and symptoms.
 
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B737

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I'm located near the shore, Monmouth county, I have an arborist I have a relationship with. They are here annually for maintenance and chip away at trees that are dangerously close, a little at a time as i can afford. Just something I've been working at over time. This property was neglected for a long time before I came here. Massive oaks used to tower over the house, only a few feet away. In the middle of the afternoon it would be nearly dark in the backyard.

This one is on the side where the trees tend to lean away from the house, thicker woods as I've given this section less attention from tree company visits. The property is mostly all red and white oaks. I'm worried if this is a disease, or bugs, it's going to spread and I will be left with 3 acres of dead oak trees. My arborist was here but could not answer why, he noted some missing bark towards the base near the ground. To him, he's a hammer, it looks like a nail.

EDIT: holy crap this looks like wilt in the above link, they specifically mention July. I will research if there is a state forestry, at a minimum they may look at it or take the information for their records.
 

Tornado

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I'm located near the shore, Monmouth county, I have an arborist I have a relationship with. They are here annually for maintenance and chip away at trees that are dangerously close, a little at a time as i can afford. Just something I've been working at over time. This property was neglected for a long time before I came here. Massive oaks used to tower over the house, only a few feet away. In the middle of the afternoon it would be nearly dark in the backyard.

This one is on the side where the trees tend to lean away from the house, thicker woods as I've given this section less attention from tree company visits. The property is mostly all red and white oaks. I'm worried if this is a disease, or bugs, it's going to spread and I will be left with 3 acres of dead oak trees. My arborist was here but could not answer why, he noted some missing bark towards the base near the ground. To him, he's a hammer, it looks like a nail.

EDIT: holy crap this looks like wilt in the above link, they specifically mention July. I will research if there is a state forestry, at a minimum they may look at it or take the information for their records.

If it is oak wilt you would definitely want to get the tree down and destroy it quickly, as in just burning it immediately. The oak wilt if you read up on it is the result of beetles who are attracted to the sap in red and white oaks. Any tree damage that exposes the flesh ofthe tree is an attractant to these beetles, and they swoop in. Oak wilt can kill oaks in a few weeks time as well. I would look for spongey spots as describedi n thel ink on various oak trees. You may have a beetle problem.

Best of luck!
 

DeepWoods

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Any saw mills in the area that would take the tree down for the lumber? If not, that's going to be a very expensive problem to deal with.
I'm willing to bet that there would be few if any mill operators that would take that tree down for just the lumber. I know I wouldn't. To many bad things can happen when taking down yard trees, and a good chance of metal in the tree as well, that a mill operator would want to avoid.
 

Daren Todd

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More common in red oaks than in white oaks, but if you can find no signs or symptoms you may consider Oak Wilt disease: https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/oak_wilt_disease_1

Oak wilt is transmitted by Beatles.
We had a few hit by them on our property. Especially after the trees were weekend from a couple tornados that came through the area. I have three on the back fence line that need to be taken down at some point. One won't be an issue, the second is questionable, but the third is heading straight for the neighbors fence.
 

Tughill Tom

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I'm located near the shore, Monmouth county, I have an arborist I have a relationship with. They are here annually for maintenance and chip away at trees that are dangerously close, a little at a time as i can afford. Just something I've been working at over time. This property was neglected for a long time before I came here. Massive oaks used to tower over the house, only a few feet away. In the middle of the afternoon it would be nearly dark in the backyard.

This one is on the side where the trees tend to lean away from the house, thicker woods as I've given this section less attention from tree company visits. The property is mostly all red and white oaks. I'm worried if this is a disease, or bugs, it's going to spread and I will be left with 3 acres of dead oak trees. My arborist was here but could not answer why, he noted some missing bark towards the base near the ground. To him, he's a hammer, it looks like a nail.

EDIT: holy crap this looks like wilt in the above link, they specifically mention July. I will research if there is a state forestry, at a minimum they may look at it or take the information for their records.
Sorry the guys i know are all up north in Sussex/ Morris Co., don't think they would run down there.
 

Tornado

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B737 I did some more digging. There are no reports of oak wilt in New Jersey. The disease has been known about since I believe the 1940's or so, but no known cases in NJ I think. Here is a map of where Oak Wilt has been verified in the United states. https://www.fs.usda.gov/naspf/sites/default/files/final-oakwiilt_us_2017.pdf

That doesn't mean it cant be oak wilt, but it seems to definitely be more a disease associated with the Midwestern united states. These types of things foresters often would like to look into if you have one.
 

B737

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I dont want to post full size photos so i'll put a link under to the higher resolution.
I smacked the bark at the base, and about 5' up with claw hammer, the bottom ripped right open, exposing white termites. At 5', the bark pulled off, had a sweet type smell, i found very tiny black ants, and white termites eggs I think. The ground on one side is particularly soft. I'm not sure if the termites are the cause, or a result of whatever is going on. I've had plenty of trees on my property with termites, I see the saw dust piles, cut them down. I have never seen a oak die in 4 weeks because of termites. This tree was totally full and green mid june.

Lower leaves, ones above are totally dead.

Full rez

Base before hammer

full rez

Base after hammer: termites here, white specs

Full Rez

Bark 5' up, after i stripped it a little

full rez

Bark chipped away 5' up, more termites, tiny black ants were carrying the white things, pretty gnarly.

full rez
 
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Tornado

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I dont want to post full size photos so i'll put a link under to the higher resolution.
I smacked the bark at the base, and about 5' up with claw hammer, the bottom ripped right open, exposing white termites. At 5', the bark pulled off, i found very tiny black ants, and white termites eggs I think. The ground on one side is particularly soft. I'm not sure if the termites are the cause, or a result of whatever is going on. I've had plenty of trees on my property with termites, I see the saw dust piles, cut them down. I have never seen a oak die in 4 weeks because of termites. This tree was totally full and green mid june.

Lower leaves, ones above are totally dead.

Full rez

Base before hammer

full rez

Base after hammer: termites here, white specs

Full Rez

Bark 5' up, after i stripped it a little

full rez

Bark chipped away 5' up, more termites, tiny black ants were carrying the white things, pretty gnarly.

full rez
Nice pics. Looks like you potentially have more than one wood destroying organisms at play there, and looks like it may have been at work for some time. I am with you though on the sudden death. Typically from what ive seen termites dont up and kill a tree suddenly. They will eat it up, cause lots of damage but the tree will often persist. The problem though is that the damage from termites can open the tree up to other things that can kill the tree like beetles or the like that can bring in disease. If they tree wasn't already dead you could have treated the termite problem around the base of the tree and perhaps saved it. You may also have carpenter ants in the tree. They don't actually eat the wood like termites but they tunnel through it and destroy it. Seeing the saw dust at the base of the tree is often a good sign of carpenter ants as they chew tunnels through the rotted wood.

Sounds like you have a ton of big nice hardwoods there on this property. You will likely always have to stay vigilant of bugs and disease. Beetles are the worst from what I've always seen as they can kill many species quickly once they start burrowing. Much like oak wilt, once beetles getinto a pine plantation here and start causing problems, folks often have to cut multiple acres of pine trees out of their stand just to halt the problem as they will just go through an area. Pine plantations are big down here. we have thousands and thousands of acres of pine forests, and beetles are the number one problem.
 

B737

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this forum has taught me so many things, thanks all. I will have to do some more reading about these beetles. When the guys take this down I will take a closer look and update the thread with the "tree autopsy".

When I saw the bare limb two weeks ago, i shurgged it off, "eh, that tree isnt doing well, I will address it in a year or two", but now I think this needs to be done asap.